n Commonwealth Youth and Development - Zimbabwe genocide : voices and perception on "development" and "democracy" from the youth and old people of Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces 32 years on




Studies on genocide in Zimbabwe in particular, and the world in general, focus on the number of people who die during these tragic conflicts. Although statistics can provide a sense of the magnitude of the negative impact of genocide, it is now significant to redirect attention towards understanding the conditions under which the people of Matabeleland and the Midlands are living after the Gukurahundi genocide that happened between 1980 and 1987. In order to do so, it is imperative to consider the importance of youth voices, views and perceptions and - those also, of the old people who are the surviving victims - regarding their understanding of the meaning of "development" and "democracy" against the background of perceptions - real or imagined - of marginalisation in a country that witnessed genocide as a form of political control. Furthermore, it is crucial to identify and highlight how youth and the old people from these regions in Zimbabwe define and redefine, for themselves, popular notions of "development" and "democracy" as they attempt to create new frames of aspirations embodied out of the lived experiences of suffering in the past and continuing ethnic-based perceptions of victimisation in a country that is 32 years into political independence. Rather than adopting a top-down approach that imposes definitions of what is "development" or "democracy," these people, the search for the meaning of life for the genocide victims can be done without wishing away the painful past, but with a desire to project into a possible and safer future. Research on genocide in Matabeleland and the Midlands Province, therefore, needs to ascertain and register, whether or not there have been changes in the voices, views and perceptions of the victims of Gukurahundi about the issues of inclusive development and democracy. It is argued in this paper that if the political, economic and social conditions of the people from these affected areas have not changed, this constitutes a continuing silent genocide whose dimensions and impact on development and expanding democratic spaces must be interrogated. Evaluating perceptions of victims of genocide in Zimbabwe, using interviews and questionnaires in Tsholotsho, Gweru, Mberengwa, Nkayi and Umzingwani can elicit responses to the questions regarding the preferred paths of development and democracy by the victims of the political disturbances. However, on the other hand if the responses to the questions are positive and affirming that there are new values that inform development and a new culture of democracy in Zimbabwe, we still need to analyse the content of what I call, the "victim's assertive spiritual agency" that is important when considering how the people have forged ahead with their lives despite or because of a previous history of persecution.


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